Beyond Expectations: A Brief History of Rodman Ride for Kids

It may be call the Rodman Ride for Kids, but before Don Rodman got involved, the Ride for Kids was a small fundraiser for one organization, the RFK Children’s Action Corps. 

1989: A Good Start

In 1989, the 100-mile cycling tour was off to a good start, raising $6,000. The ride was so small, the “water stop” was in the back of a VW car!

“The ride was our first fundraising event ever,” said Ed Kelley, former President of the RFK Children’s Action Corps (RFKCAC). “Twenty-one riders rode from Boston to Clinton, Massachusetts.”

The following year the ride raised $11,000. To grow the event further, RFKCAC needed a corporate partner to help underwrite expenses.

“I went to see Don Rodman because he had a reputation for two things: philanthropy and no-nonsense,” said Ed.

Ed was only a few moments into his pitch when Don, the late Founder of Rodman for Kids, stopped him: “How much do you want?” Unfazed, Ed continued his presentation.

Again, Don interrupted. “Ed, how much do you want?”

“$5,000,” Ed replied.

1991: The Ride Gets a Name Change

In 1991, the first Rodman Ride for Kids started and ended in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It raised $30,000, which all went to RFKCAC. Each year, the Ride attracted more riders and raised more money, but Don knew there was room to grow.

But first he had to talk to Ed.

“I was hesitant,” said Ed. “How do you go back to your board and tell them you just turned over your biggest event to someone else?” Still, Ed trusted Don’s vision, leadership, and generosity.

“Surprisingly, I was at a check presentation for another fundraiser when it struck me that we could grow exponentially if we involved more nonprofits,” said Don at the time. “It was all about creating more capacity so we could help more kids.”

1994: Big Changes Produce Big Results

In 1994, several new organizations, including The Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester, joined the event. All the nonprofits involved in the Ride were committed to the same thing: helping kids and families.

That same year, the Rodman Ride for Kids added the 25 and 50 mile routes, which increased the appeal of the ride to recreational riders. Don also introduced an incentive program that continues to evolve today.

Over the years, the Ride has added more organizations. They’ve worked collaboratively with Rodman for Kids to produce a better and more successful event.

“The cooperation among our agency leaders is like no other organization,” said Amy Rossman, Executive Director of Rodman for Kids. “Dozens of nonprofit leaders meet regularly and share fundraising strategies.”

“Instead of competing with one another, they work together toward a common goal: improving the lives of at-risk kids.”

The Ride Today

Over thirty years later, the Ride continues to grow. Since 1991, it has raised over $145 million and is the most successful one-day athletic fundraiser for at-risk kids in the country.  In 2020, the Ride raised $3 million through a virtual Ride , despite the challengers brought on by the COViD-19 pandemic. 

But the real power of the Rodman Ride for Kids lies in the opportunity it gives youth-focused nonprofits to build capacity through professional development and to raise money through a professionally organized and expense-free event. All overhead and event expenses for the Ride are all endowed by the Don & Marilyn Rodman Foundation. When you donate to the Rodman Ride for Kids, 100% goes directly to the children served by our Partner Organizations. 

Now with over 40 Partner Organizations, the Rodman Ride for Kids impacts tens of thousands of kids annually.